Coumba went to Mali’s capital in search of work, knowing she was pregnant outside of wedlock. Afraid of her family’s reaction, the 18-year-old did the unthinkable.
When her employer offered to take her to a hospital where she could safely give birth she refused.
Instead, “When the time came for me to deliver I went to the toilet. Then the child went into the hole and that was the end of it,” she said, speaking softly and looking down at the floor. She doesn’t say whether the baby was a boy or a girl, says Martin Vogl of the Associated Press.
Abortion is illegal in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world and UNICEF estimates only 8 percent of Malian women use contraception.
Infanticide or attempted infanticide has become the most common crime after theft and assault at the prison for women and girls in Mali’s capital.
Officials said 25 out of the 122 female prisoners were being held murder or attempted murder of their children.
Most simply leave their infants in vacant lots, gutters or toilet pits and will only serve a year or two; no one can say how long Coumba will stay here.
Jacqueline Dembele sees girls almost daily who don’t want to keep their babies. She runs Muso Danbe, an organization which supports women and girls working as domestic workers.
One woman Muso Danbe has helped is 18-year-old Tabita. She came to see the NGO after she says she was drugged and raped by her employer. She later found out that she was pregnant.
“Now that I have my child I have to stop working for at least five months. He’s just too small right now for me to work. And that’s five months of no salary,” she says.
The director of the prison, Hadiata Maiga, says many of the older women who have been detained for infanticide or attempted infanticide are reluctant to discuss their crimes.
“It’s tough for a woman who has thrown her baby into a gutter or a toilet to talk about it, but we have to try to help them,” she says.
Coumba regrets killing her child and looks forward to starting a new life.
“After I’m freed from this prison I’d like to go home and get married and, yes, I’d like to have children again too,” she says.